An actor at the centre of a storyline on child sexual exploitation (CSE) has visited County Durham as part of a week of events co-ordinated by the Local Safeguarding Children Board.
Chris Harper, who played child groomer Nathan in Coronation Street, spoke about his storyline and the public reaction to his role during a training session on CSE at County Hall as part of National Safeguarding Week.
The actor is also involved in the ‘Voicing Child Sexual Abuse’ animation The Mouse, which helps victims and survivors of CSE to share their experiences with the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The two half-day sessions were organised by the LSCB and Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust who provide the 0-19 Healthy Child Programme in County Durham.
“Days like today are absolutely vital because there are so many people working hard in this area and it’s really important they connect as much as possible so that they are always ready when victims or survivors come forward and need help,” said Chris.
“The big message I would want to get across to people is that they are not alone and it isn’t your fault and there is help out there. In terms of the professionals involved, they’re doing excellent work and as much as possible they should link up all of the forces for good across the country.”
Other speakers at the event included nurses in child protection, the LSCB lead for CSE and Durham Constabulary’s ERASE team, with those attending the session including Durham County Council family workers.
Jane Geraghty, Chair of Durham LSCB, said: “Child sexual exploitation is child abuse and it can have a damaging and long-lasting impact on children, as well as their families.
“Victims of sexual exploitation are often reluctant to report their abuse or do not recognise they are being abused and so it is extremely important for all of us to be ‘eyes and ears’ in our communities, to identify children who may be at risk and those who may be offending. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.”
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The storyline that Chris was involved in has helped to raise the issue of child sexual exploitation across the country and we are delighted he has attended this event to share his experiences.
“Across County Durham, LSCB partner agencies such as children’s services, police and health work together to tackle CSE through three strands of work – prevent, protect and pursue.
“Training sessions like this highlight the importance of multi-agency working and allow partners to come together, identify areas of good practice and learn from each other.”
Anyone concerned a child is being abused should call First Contact on 03000 26 79 79.